Beluga Whale Pair Move from Ukraine's Kharkiv to Spain's Valencia

TOPSHOT - This handout picture taken and released by Valencia's Oceanografic Oceanarium on June 19, 2024 shows veterinary staff members taking care of one of the two belugas on June 19, 2024. (Photo by Marc Domenech / Oceanografic Oceanarium of Valencia / AFP)
TOPSHOT - This handout picture taken and released by Valencia's Oceanografic Oceanarium on June 19, 2024 shows veterinary staff members taking care of one of the two belugas on June 19, 2024. (Photo by Marc Domenech / Oceanografic Oceanarium of Valencia / AFP)
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Beluga Whale Pair Move from Ukraine's Kharkiv to Spain's Valencia

TOPSHOT - This handout picture taken and released by Valencia's Oceanografic Oceanarium on June 19, 2024 shows veterinary staff members taking care of one of the two belugas on June 19, 2024. (Photo by Marc Domenech / Oceanografic Oceanarium of Valencia / AFP)
TOPSHOT - This handout picture taken and released by Valencia's Oceanografic Oceanarium on June 19, 2024 shows veterinary staff members taking care of one of the two belugas on June 19, 2024. (Photo by Marc Domenech / Oceanografic Oceanarium of Valencia / AFP)

Marine biologists have moved a pair of beluga whales from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv - the target of daily shelling by Russian forces - to the eastern Spanish city of Valencia, in what they described as a long and risky international rescue operation.
The animals, 15-year-old male Plombir and 14-year-old female Miranda, arrived at Valencia's famed Oceanografic complex late on Monday in a fragile state of health, according to a statement by the Spanish oceanarium.
They had endured a lengthy journey in fragile wooden crates that started with a 12-hour road trip from Kharkiv to the port city of Odesa. There, the belugas' Ukrainian keepers met with a team of veterinarians from the Oceanografic as well as the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and SeaWorld theme parks.
After a quick check-up, they resumed the trip to the border with Moldova, which they crossed with the aid of the European Union's Anti-Fraud Office. From Chisinau they boarded a five-hour flight to Valencia, Reuters reported.
The regional leader of Valencia, Carlos Mazon, said the operation was "a historic feat of animal protection on a global level".
The Oceanografic's director of zoological operations, Daniel Garcia-Parraga, said that the whales' condition had been "suboptimal to undertake this kind of journey, but if they had continued in Kharkiv, their chances of survival would have been very slim".
Kharkiv's NEMO dolphinarium was just 800 meters (2,600 feet) away from a site that was frequently shelled and the shockwaves caused severe stress on animals with such sensitive hearing.
But, Garcia-Parraga said on Wednesday, the belugas were in much better shape than vets had initially expected and were adapting well to their new home.
Plombir was already eating - which in that species is unusual right after transportation - but Miranda had yet to try her first bite, he added.
The Oceanografic is the largest aquarium in Europe and the only one that houses beluga whales.
The white-hued mammals live in chilly waters in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Males can reach a length of up to 5.5 meters and weigh up to 1.6 tons.



2 Amur Tiger Cubs Have their 1st Public Outing at German Zoo

Two Amur tiger cubs, Tochka and Timur, have their first public outing at Cologne Zoo in Cologne, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
Two Amur tiger cubs, Tochka and Timur, have their first public outing at Cologne Zoo in Cologne, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
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2 Amur Tiger Cubs Have their 1st Public Outing at German Zoo

Two Amur tiger cubs, Tochka and Timur, have their first public outing at Cologne Zoo in Cologne, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
Two Amur tiger cubs, Tochka and Timur, have their first public outing at Cologne Zoo in Cologne, Thursday July 18, 2024. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)

Two Amur tiger cubs had their first public outing Thursday at Cologne Zoo in Germany, one of several zoos that have sought to help keep up the numbers of the rare big cats.
The cubs — a female named Tochka and a male named Timur — were born in mid-April and now weigh about 13 kilos each. The pair explored their enclosure together with their mother, 13-year-old Katinka.
Amur tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, are found in the far east of Russia and northeastern China and are considered endangered.
“We are very happy and proud of the offspring of this highly threatened species,” zoo curator Alexander Sliwa said in a statement, which said that 240 Amur tigers in zoos are currently part of a European program to help conserve and breed the animals.
Katinka was brought from the zoo in Nuremberg last summer in exchange for Cologne tiger Akina after the existing pairs at both zoos had long failed to produce offspring. She quickly hit it off with 9-year-old Sergan, the cubs' father, the zoo said.